A very warm welcome to St Bride’s for this service, as we honour the memory and celebrate the life of Jeremy Wright – Jerry to many of us.
It is over a year since his untimely and heart-breaking death, and I know that we all continue to miss him immensely – because he was loved and respected by everyone who knew him – especially by those of you here today who were closest to his heart: his much-loved family and his life-long friends.
With characteristic understatement, Jerry himself said, ‘pancreatic cancer isn’t a great one to get’ – and it is indeed, both cruel and uncompromising.
And yet, the way in which he approached his final weeks reveals so much about the man that he was. As Clare has recounted, she never heard him moan or complain. He never gave up, took each day at a time, and to the very last he was always thinking and planning ahead. His courage and determination were there for all to see.
He also never lost his sense of humour: indeed, poor Clare acquired a new new nickname from him towards the end: ‘Dietollah’ – as a result of her efforts to minimize his intake of sugars. Jerry spent his final days at home with his family, who surrounded him with their love and affection – a love they shared that, at the end, needed no words. It was just there.
Jerry and Clare were married here at St Bride’s on 15th July 1989, and it remained a place that was immensely close to his heart. He and Clare were both confirmed here when aged in their 30s; and their children were both christened here.
And Jerry was a huge part of our life here in many ways. He served us faithfully as Churchwarden for more years than we had the right to ask of him. This was a role in which he excelled, to the benefit of us all, and for which I owe him a personal debt of thanks.
When I was shortlisted for the post of Rector here, all the candidates were invited to come for a preliminary visit and given an individual guided tour by one of the Churchwardens.
I had the immense good fortune to be assigned to Jerry – so he was actually the very first person I ever met here. After showing me round, we went and sat over there in one of the outer seats and had a long conversation – about St Bride’s and its people, about the job, and about the future of the church. And I can remember coming away from that conversation thinking: ‘Good heavens – if there are people of that calibre at St Bride’s, what is there not to like about this job?’
Both in that first encounter, and in all my subsequent dealings with him, Jerry was invariably astute, perceptive, persuasive and kind. And I can honestly say that during the whole of my seven-plus years here I have never once heard anybody utter a single word of criticism of him. Not once. People listened to Jerry because he earned their trust, and because they had learned to trust and respect his judgement. But Jerry was not merely a consummate professional and an amazing churchwarden. He was also an outstanding human being. And today, after all these long months of lockdown and Covid restrictions, we can finally celebrate that, and give thanks for all that he meant to us and for all that he was.